Cultured Stone vs Natural Stone Veneers: Key Differences

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Natural stone and manufactured cultured stone are the two most popular stone veneers on the market. What is veneer stone? It’s a thin layer of decorative stone most often used for feature walls and building facades but is not made to be load-bearing. 

Natural stone veneer is created from real, quarried stone that is sliced into thin pieces or otherwise cut to fit the needs of your design. Natural stone veneer lives up to its name, as its textures, irregularities, and tonal variations give it a natural and rustic appearance. Natural stone was the only real option for these types of landscaping projects, until about 60 years ago when a cultured stone was first manufactured.

So what is cultured stone and how is a cultured stone made? Cultured stone is a man-made product that is created and designed to echo natural stone in appearance, but is lighter and therefore easier to install. 

Its ingredients are concrete and aggregate materials pressed into molds. In order to mimic the look of natural stone and fit the design of your outdoor or indoor space, it is stained, sprayed, or painted in natural-looking colors and patterns. Though at first glance they might seem similar, there are a lot of factors to consider in the cultured stone vs real stone debate. 

What Is The Difference in Cost?

The cost of natural stone veneer vs manufactured stone veneer is not as simple as it seems. You might think that cultured stone is the cheaper option of these two stone veneers, but that is not entirely true. Though their installation costs are similar and cultured stone might seem like the less expensive option at first, natural stone is the more affordable choice in the long run. 

Cultured stone might be cheaper, but it also will not last as long. Natural stone does not cost that much more upfront, and it will last longer and maintain its high-quality appearance for many years to come. However, higher-end cultured stone does not look very different from natural stone and the difference in cost of the raw product is smaller. 

How Hard Is The Installation Process?

Ease of installation is the greatest advantage of using a cultured stone veneer, primarily due to its weight and density. Manufactured stone is lighter, easier to cut, easier to handle, and can be fixed to a greater variety of substrates, even drywall. Cultured, manufactured stone is better than natural stone for a do-it-yourself installation. 

Natural stone, however, can only be directly installed on porous stone, concrete, or block. If you’re fixing it to a smooth surface, metal lath and scratch coat are required to allow thin sheets to grip properly. Using real stone for walls is also more challenging because natural stone is denser and therefore more difficult to cut than cultured stone.

Which One Looks Better?

If you’re looking for a better-looking option for your design, a real stone exterior is your first choice. Natural stone is undeniably beautiful, with a natural, appealing texture you can’t help but reach out and touch. No two stones are exactly the same, so your walls won’t have a repetitive pattern. 

Real stones come in unique and varied colors; you can choose to intersperse stones of different colors to make a more interesting design, or you can maintain a subtle, natural uniformity with stones of similar color. 

Cultured stones are designed to mimic natural stones using paints and stains. Though generally a good imitation, cultured stones’ paint will fade with time and exposure to sunlight and other elements. However, because they are man-made, there is a greater selection of colors and styles to choose from.

If you’re looking for a natural, varied design, consider using split rubble veneer for your next project.

How Weight and Size Are Different?

The weight difference between the stones is very pronounced, as cultured stone weighs about half as much as natural stone, which weighs in at about 13 lbs per square foot. In terms of size, usually, the full-dimension cultured stone begins at about 2 inches thick and can increase to about 6-8 inches thick. Though varied, these cultured stone faces can go up to 14 inches in diameter. Some people opt for thin stone veneer, a sub-category in which cultured stone ranges from 1 inch to 2 inches thick. Natural stone is less varied in size, with a minimum thickness of ¾ of an inch and a maximum thickness of 1½ inches. 

Which One Lasts Longer?

When debating real stone vs. faux stone, longevity matters! If installed properly, the natural stone veneer will not let you down over the years; it will maintain its original look and feel for a lifetime, so you don’t have to worry about losing the high quality or beauty of your space over time. 

Unlike cultured stone, natural stone veneer is not painted and therefore retains its color better. Natural stone veneer is also versatile enough to always work flawlessly with any future landscaping work and designs you could implement over the years, so you won’t need to change it later. 


So, what’s the final verdict on the cultured stone vs natural stone debate? Let’s consider some pros and cons. 

Manufactured stones have a tendency to fade and lose color with time. They are also lighter, which is a pro because they’re easier to install, but also a con because it makes them less durable. They are more difficult to maintain because they can’t handle pressure washing or scrubbing and are often very vulnerable to the elements. Cultured stones also tend to be more uniform and repetitive, which does not lend itself to a natural design. 

Natural stone has a more authentic look, with varied colors and patterns that are naturally occurring. Natural stones last longer, maintaining their bright color even after years of exposure to sunlight and precipitation. They are more affordable in the long run, as they require less maintenance and do not need to be replaced due to deterioration. 

Overall, natural stones are the better choice for your design. They last longer and look more appealing with their natural tonal variations and texture. 
If you’re still unsure which stone is the best choice for you and your project, contact Stone Center for a consultation and quote. We can help you find the right stones to make your vision come to life!


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Jon Smiley

Jon, the owner of Stone Center, is a knowledgeable expert in natural stone products, specializing in various types of stone for landscaping and architectural projects. Passionate about promoting the beauty and versatility of natural stone, Jon aims to use these blogs to inspire readers with creative ideas to upgrade their homes.

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